Chris Marker

(Born 1921, lives and works in France)

La Jetée (1962) La Sixieme face du Pentagone (1968) Loin du Vietnam/Far from Vietnam (1972) Grin Without a Cat/Le Fond de l’air est Rouge (1977) Sans Soleil (1983).

Biographical information on filmmaker Chris Marker is often sparse or conflicting. Since this confusion appears self-generated, it is perhaps safest to stick to Marker’s work. Suffice to mention that he studied philosophy under Jean-Paul Sartre in the 1930’s and by the end of the 1940’s he had started a career as a writer. Marker has been credited with inventing the cinematic essay travel has been an integral part of his work since the beginning. In 1953 he co-directed Les statues meurent aussi with Alain Resnais, one of the first films to come out of the West that dealt with anti-colonialism. Banned for more than a decade by French censors, Marker’s film examined how African art declined as the continent came under Western domination.

For the Liberation Chapter, a ion of Marker’s films will be screened. Several reference Vietnam. Marker’s 1968 production, in collaboration with François Reichenbach, La Sixieme face du Pentagone, documents a demonstration against the Vietnam War at the Pentagon in October 1967 that turned violent. The epical Grin Without a Cat (Le Fond de l’air est Rouge, 1977) is a film-essay on the worldwide political wars of the 60's and 70's: Vietnam, Bolivia, the May '68 protests, conflicts in Prague, Chile and the fate of the New Left. Loin du Vietnam was produced in 1972 as a filmic anthology and collective protest against the war by influential filmmakers of the period. Marker edited the project, which begins with images of flight preparations for bombers on an American carrier that are contrasted with shots of civilians in Hanoi hurrying to their shelters.

The early short film La Jetée (1962) enters the genre of science fiction to elicit a world in ruins after nuclear war. Searching for basic supplies and food, the few surviving humans begin researching time travel, hoping to send someone back to the pre-war world. The film uses a series of black and white still images to transmit the story. Its sparse narrative style and format have influenced time-travel films such as Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys. Marker’s classic Sans Soleil (1983) is a fictional and lyrical documentary where an unseen narrator reads a letter from a friend, reflecting on ideas of memory and history during his travels. In an evocative passage, the traveller talks of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now: ‘Brando said a few definitive and incommunicable sentences: “ Horror has a face and a name…you must make a friend of horror”. To cast out the horror that has a name and a face you must give it another name and another face’. 

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